Sunday, September 23, 2012
There is simply too much out there, and no one has the ability, except through lying or denial, to repeal anything that he or she has ever said or done. Certainly, there are people who can withstand that kind of exposure, but not, I would argue, without accruing deep political wounds that will severely undermine our assessment of the candidate. Most cannot withstand it, and their bids for top spots in government end quickly and in embarassment or retreat.
No flaw can be hidden anymore. Were they to be presidential candidates in 2012, John Fitzgerald Kennedy would not be able to cover up his sexual indiscretions, Franklin Delano Roosevelt would not be able to create the illusion that he could stand and walk, and the evidence, if not the doctor's records, of Abraham Lincoln's treatment for depression (as he certainly would have been diagnosed and treated in this day and age) would emerge one way or another. These men would likely be declared unfit for office.
No word that was ever uttered in a public setting can disappear. It's somewhere on a camera, in a .wav file, on a tape recorder, in an archive.
Whatever that candidate may have once done, it's pretty likely that someone was there who remembers it. Maybe many someones.
Davy Crockett's stories of having killed a bear when he was only three wouldn't hold up. Nor would Teddy Roosevelt's exploits while charging up San Juan Hill.
So what chance does an inveterate, narcissistic liar like Paul Ryan have, with his incessant need to exaggerate his own physicality? Or a candidate like Mitt Romney who has to be so many different selves, and different from himself, in order to appeal to his own party? Or even Barack Obama, who undoubtedly explored more radical politics and pulpits in the past? What chance does a typical person with, even during a life well-lived, all of the misstatements, misunderstood ironies, bad choices, or reversals of course have?
Now, as someone who is in favor of complete transparency in government, I'm not complaining about this state of affairs. I like knowing who people really are and I like knowing how things works. I even take a certain perverse joy in seeing politicians try to defend the undefendable. But it does seem to keep surprising them, doesn't it? It's like they still believe that they can know that they have said or done something but can still deny that it was said or done and get away with it. Not hardly. And even if the repeated utterance of a proven lie still carries some punch in the political arena, for how much longer will that be true?
In fact, that reality surprises all of us. We know, but we can't quite get our heads around the fact that our lives are no less of an open book than theirs, should anyone want to open that book.
So, no, I'm not complaining. But I also know that oratory is an essential part of politics, and that bluster and bluff are an essential part of oratory, at least in politics. We want our leaders, somehow, to still be larger than life, to represent the best qualities of all of us, to convince us that they can do more than we think they can, without some fact-checker on his iPad in his den waiting to debunk everything we think we believe in. Pure policy makers and numbers crunchers will hardly inspire us to make that trek to the polling station.
Maybe, somewhere out there as I write this, there is someone who is ahead of the curve, who is self-editing and whitewashing him or herself from a very young age in preparation for a political career based on a flawless background--a not-false, just carefully-constructed biography of deep spirituality, vast community service, superb grades, and fully monogamous intent. If so, that person terrifies me.